Lifetime Learning is not about Knowledge Acquisition

Lifetime Learning is not about Knowledge Acquisition

We are moving deeper into the age of conception. Daniel Pink described this age as “an era in which mastery of abilities that we’ve often overlooked and undervalued marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind” (p. 6). From Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, one can surmise that students in the conceptual age must be able to:

  • create artistic and emotional beauty
  • detect patterns and opportunities
  • craft a satisfying narrative
  • combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention
  • empathize
  • understand the subtleties of human interaction
  • find joy in one’s self and elicit it in others” (p. 51).

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Many of the traditional practices being used to teach our students in the conceptual age are not engaging learners in authentic ways, thus confining student identity, student agency, and student power. These traditional practices focus solely on the acquisition of topical knowledge and facts.

Schank reminds us that “we need a different approach to knowledge than we currently have” (p. 22). In other words, “we need to teach students to attack the facts and not to replace them with other facts” (Schank, p.22). Moreover, Schank submits that, “students are not taught to use the information they have, to question other information” (p. 23). Continuing down this traditional path will not prompt personalized learning for our students. Therefore, being predisposed to Schank’s advice, I believe that it would behoove educators to move from a knowledge-based education model (which is curriculum design) to a process-based education model (which is instructional design). Schank calls this process-based education model, story-centered curricula.  I’d like to tweak what he calls it, to story-centered design.

“Real knowledge is acquired as a natural part of an employed cognitive process in service of a goal” (Schank, p. 79). Below is a list of Schank’s twelve cognitive processes that underlie learning:

  • Conceptual
    • Prediction
    • Modeling
    • Experimentation
    • Evaluation
  • Analytic
    • Diagnosis
    • Planning
    • Causation
    • Judgement
  • Social
    • Influence
    • Teamwork
    • Negotiation
    • Describing

As students engage in authentic learning experiences, “knowledge acquisition is a natural result of engaging in cognitive processes that are being employed to satisfy a truly held goal” (Schank, p.79). Hence, it is the design of the learning experience that should be the focus. “A good [learning experience] relies on the creation of stories that a student can participate in and feel deeply about” (Schank, p. 90). Perhaps, using stories which are goal-based and involve role play, can be an approach used by teachers as an instructional design model in a web-enhanced classroom.

In sum, lifetime learning is not about knowledge acquisition. It’s about continuous development of the twelve cognitive processes, student identity, student agency, and productive student power.

Reference:

Pink, D. H. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Schank, R. C. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

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